20140724_121137_1.jpg Yes, the title has to be in all caps.  It’s for emphasis.  I need all caps because I’m so excited that after some hundreds of trials, I have finally formulated a scrub I like. I’m, of course, picky about my skincare products.  Duh. That’s mostly why I make my own.  But I am particularly picky about scrubs.  It is so easy to create a scrub that sucks.  It’s much harder to make a crappy lotion or cream.  There are a few store-bought scrubs I like but they always have at least one of two problems: either they have unsavory ingredients or they cost too much.  As for most DIY scrubs…I have a few issues with them.

They are greasy. This is my biggest problem with most DIY scrubs.  They contain oil, salt, and sugar.  This does not a yummy scrub make!  Sure, it will exfoliate but so does a sandbox.  If you’re the kind who likes to scrub often or scrub your whole body, after a while of using this combination of ingredients, your pipes will start to suffer.

They don’t rinse clean. This is related to the fact that they are greasy.  I don’t like oily or sticky residue after scrubbing.  I want my skin to feel supple, yes, but I also want it to feel clean.  I want to moisturize as usual and be on my way.

They are sticky. Sometimes I see a recipe that doesn’t call for much oil or any at all.  Usually, in its place, glycerin is used.  Glycerin is not a bad ingredient for a scrub.  It rinses better than oil but it can leave a sticky film that lingers if you use too much.  It’s a humectant, meaning it draws moisture to the skin, so it has its benefits.

They’re too abrasive. Too much salt can make a scrub harsh.  Sugar is gentler.  Brown sugar is really gentle.  A combination of sea salt and sugar is best, more sugar than salt.

The texture is just all wrong! A good scrub should spread easily, have some slip, feel grainy but not like kitty litter or small pebbles. It should make your skin feel clean, soft, and touchable.  The texture is the most important part of a good scrub!

I like to use my scrub 2-3 times a week on my face and as needed on my body, usually right after I shave for super silky smoothness.  I cleanse, scrub, moisturize – in that order.  You’ll notice that amounts are given in volume, not in mass like I normally prefer.  My scale is broken for the 3rd time and I refuse to buy the same one again but I can’t find one I like.  If anyone has any suggestions, please share!  Volume works well enough here though.

Ingredients & Tools

  • 1 tablespoon cetyl alcohol
  • 2 tablespoons jojoba oil
  • 2 tablespoons castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon glycerin
  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 2 teaspoons vitamin E oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Optiphen
  • 2 teaspoons silk amino acids (optional!)
  • essential oils (optional, just make sure they’re safe for use on the face)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (organic brown if you’re sensitive)
  • 1/4 sea salt (you can use black salt if you’re fancy)
  1. Combine cetyl alcohol, jojoba oil, and vitamin E oil in mixing container.  Heat until just melted, either in the microwave or in simmering water.
  2. In a separate glass or Mason jar, combine glycerin, witch hazel, silk amino acids.  Add to the mixing container.
  3. Using the immersion blender, blend briefly until it’s combined and thick – should take less than 15 seconds.  Add castile soap and essential oils (if using).  Blend for 5 seconds or so.  Transfer mixture to the bowl.  Let it cool about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in Optiphen, salt and sugar.  Spoon into your storage container.


You can add all kinds of stuff and make all kinds of substitutions.  The sky is the limit, let your imagination run free! Send questions my way at and stay tuned for another email question session soon.

Homemade Hair Growth Serum

jbco 2

I recently got a haircut that I hate.  I had just gotten my hair to the length I wanted and went to the stylist to have it cut into the shape I wanted and even it out some.  Unfortunately, just about all my length is gone now.  I am quite annoyed because I told him exactly what I wanted – just the back and the sides, don’t really touch the top or the front.  I should have said something as soon as I saw the first large tuft of hair fall but I think once I saw that, I just kind of gave up and accepted that I would have a haircut I didn’t really like.  *sigh* It happens to the best of us at least once, I guess.  And like everyone is saying, it’s just hair.  It will grow back.  Welllll, I want it back now!  I especially want my little sideburns back.  How you gonna just take those off without permission?  I need those!  So since I’m in a rush for my hair to grow back, I made a little concoction to speed things up a bit.

Scalp stimulation is key for fast hair growth.  I strongly recommend head massages on a regular basis.  Don’t make a habit of playing with your hair but massaging the scalp does wonders for growth.  This serum only requires 3 ingredients.

  1. Jamaican black castor oil
  2. peppermint essential oil
  3. rosemary essential oil

Place about 3 tablespoons of castor oil, 30-40 drops of peppermint oil, 30-40 drops of rosemary oil in a small container.  Mix thoroughly.  Apply to your scalp and MASSAGE your scalp with gentle to moderate pressure for at least 10 minutes.  Let the mixture sit on your scalp and tingle and do its work for at least an half an hour.  You probably want to wear a plastic shower cap so you don’t get oil all over your furniture and stuff.  Shampoo and condition as usual after.  Repeat as often as necessary.  I’m probably going to do this everyday or every other day until I achieve at least 1 or 2 inches of growth.

I think this cut has traumatized me enough that I might go back to long hair and scrap this whole #shorthairdontcare attitude.  Maybe I’ll be brave enough to post a picture in a week or two after I recover and come to terms with my hair.  A lot of drama, I know, but this is the first time I’ve ever truly hated my hair and couldn’t even find a way to improve it somewhat while I wait for growth.  I tried a hat but that was worse.  Maybe it’s about time I build a scarf collection.

Lotion Making Math & Ratio Guide

ratio graphic.jpg

I say it all the time but I’ll say it again.


The teacher in me loves to answer questions.  I just love to help and spread knowledge!  I especially love when people ask me questions about topics we both love…like making beauty products!

Many of the questions I get are about math and proportions of ingredients.  In one of my favorite emails the author said she was “math challenged.”  Fear of math is pretty common.  I completely understand.  In this post, I’m going to quickly discuss how to do the math you need to make lotion.  It’s easy.  At the end, I will share an ingredient ratio guide for products.

Let’s do a quick lesson on percentages.

If a manufacturer says that a preservative is effective at 1% concentration, what do you do?  

If you are making batches of lotion to use at home, you’re probably making fairly small batches, probably no more than 20 ounces.  Measuring 1% of 20 ounces is easy.  First, move the decimal 2 places to the left.

1% becomes 0.01

Now you can multiply.

0.01  x  20 ounces  = 0.2 ounces of preservative

I don’t like using ounces because they’re not precise enough to me.  I like to use grams.  There are 28.3495 grams in an ounce.  So if you’re making 20 ounces,

20   x  28.3495  = 567 grams

0.01   x   567 grams = 6 grams of preservative

If a recipe calls for 60% water, you do the same thing.  First, move the decimal 2 places to the left.

60% becomes 0.60

0.6   x  20 ounces = 12 ounces of water

or, in grams

0.6   x  567 grams = 340 grams of water

Okay, good.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here is a great ratio guide.  The grams given are for making a batch that weighs 20 ounces/567 grams.


Notice that I called this a ratio guide, not a stone tablet of ratios.  You may change these.  One of my favorite body cream recipes doesn’t follow this guide too closely.  I wanted it creamier so I increased the butter and emulsifier, decreased the water, and left out thickener.  Please play with proportions!  If you ever want to write and customize your own recipes, you have to be willing to experiment with proportions.  That’s the only way to get information!

I hope this answers any math questions!  As always, please email with questions.

Homemade Face Cleanser

Homemade Face Cleanser

A good cleanser is everything, isn’t it?  I really LOVE this recipe I’m sharing.  Don’t take that lightly.  I really debated about whether to share this recipe.  It’s my own special invention and I’m pretty protective of it.  But I know you will make good use of it :)  As soon as I post this, I need to whip up a batch because my skin is not feeling regular soap one bit.

I love this cleanser because it cleans well but doesn’t dry out your skin.  It even removes makeup, although if you wear waterproof products, you should use a makeup remover before this cleanser.  I like to use plain jojoba or camellia oil as a makeup remover.  This recipe will make 8 ounces/227 grams.

You need:

  • 68 grams castile soap (any scent you like, I like rose and almond)
  • 15 grams aloe vera liquid
  • 40 grams distilled water
  • 13 grams witch hazel
  • 7 grams glycerin
  • 27 grams fractionated coconut oil (or jojoba, kukui nut, camelia, any lightweight oil that absorbs well)
  • 17 grams mango butter
  • 17 grams shea butter
  • 7 grams cetyl alcohol or conditioning emulsifier
  • 16 grams emulsifying wax


  1. Melt the oil, butters, cetyl alcohol, emulsifying wax together using a double boiler or the microwave method (microwave in 30 second increments until just melted, no smoke!)
  2. Gently heat the aloe vera, water, witch hazel, and glycerin together.  You want it to be pretty warm but not too hot to handle.
  3. Pour your oil phase into a mixing container such as a pitcher or bowl.  Pour your water phase into the oil phase container, swirl it gently, then into the mixing container.  This helps you get every bit of your oil phase.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend until combined, about 20 seconds.
  5. Gently pour the soap into your mixture.  Blend until combined.  Pour into your storage container.

Of course, you should avoid getting this in your eyes since it contains soap.  Also, if you plan to keep it longer than a month or so, you should add some preservative.  Three grams of Optiphen would be fine here.  Mine does not make it a month because I use it morning and night so I skip preservative.

If you would like to “pH balance” this to make it closer to neutral, you could add some citric acid or vitamin C or some alpha hydroxy acid (discussed here) until it reaches the desired pH.

You could also replace some of the liquids if you’d like.  You could use tea or colloidal oatmeal or a hydrosol or whatever you like. You could also leave out the shea butter and double the mango butter if you have particularly oily skin.  The possibilities are endless, really.  This cleanser is suitable for all skin types.


Make Your Own Lotion: Water Phase Ingredients to Try

Make Your Own Lotion: Water Phase Ingredients to Try


A few months ago, I did a post about how to pick oils for your homemade lotion.  If you’re interested, you can check it out here.  It was a popular post all about the oil phase of a lotion.  In this post, I will talk mainly about picking good liquids for the water phase.

The water phase of recipes is sometimes overlooked.  We often focus heavily on which kinds of oils and butters to use.  Let me tell you a little secret though: a lot of these oils and butters that are popular and expensive are overrated. I have bought my fair share of fats du jour – babassu oil, argan oil, tamanu oil, meadowfoam seed oil, cupuaçu butter, to name a few.  Some of them are amazing.  Most of the time, though, you can’t even tell the difference.  I usually use the same oils and butters that I love and have come to depend on, mostly because they are well-priced and get the job done.  Sometimes, I splurge and have a little fun but one of the reasons I started making lotion at home was to save money so I don’t want to get too caught up in trends.

In many lotion recipes, the liquid of choice is distilled water.  It’s preferred over tap water, not because of cleanliness, but because distilled water does not have any solutes – nothing is dissolved in it, it’s pure water.  Tap water usually contains chlorine, fluoride, minerals, and other substances so most lotion makers prefer distilled.  Distilled water is very inexpensive and can be found at any store.  It’s also kind of boring.  There are a zillion other liquids you could choose.  Here are some.

Aloe Vera 

Aloe is…it’s just the best. Is it any surprise that this is first on the list? It’s good for so many skin ailments.  Sometimes, when a burn needs soothing or skin is crying out for hydration, I will snip a piece of squeeze it directly from the leaf.


You can grow it in your house!

Sadly, you probably won’t have much success if you try to use it straight from the plant in your recipes.  Instead, you should use aloe vera liquid.  This isn’t the same as aloe vera gel that is sold in stores as a sunburn soother.  I get my aloe vera liquid from Brambleberry.  You can use aloe vera liquid in lieu of water.  You don’t need to make any adjustments.  Your skin will be hydrated and soothed.

Colloidal Oatmeal Tea


Colloidal oatmeal is miraculous stuff.  It’s just oat flour.  Oat flour can be made at home easily.

1. Get your oats.

2. Grind to a powder in a spice/coffee grinder.  Fin

But you can’t just dump oat flour into your lotion.  You need to make tea.  Easy peasy.  Click here to see my post on how to make it.

I recommend using a mixture of  colloidal oatmeal and another, thinner liquid.  Colloidal oatmeal is more viscous than water or aloe vera liquid and could make your lotion thicker than you want.  If you want a thick & creamy emulsion, you can use colloidal oatmeal only in your water phase.  If you want something a little lighter, replace only half of the water phase with colloidal oatmeal.  It does wonders for itchy skin.  It’s terrific on dry skin. Even stubborn eczema symptoms can be relieved using colloidal oatmeal.


Yes, the same kind you drink.  20140526_141837

Just steep the tea in hot distilled water and use in place of water.  I like to make the tea twice as strong as I would like to drink it.  Chamomile tea is a lovely choice.  So is calendula.  Combine them with lavender essential oil for a soothing, ultra-relaxing concoction.  When substituting tea for water, there is no need to change the ratio. Occasionally, I will use green tea in a spritz, toner, or cleanser.  Not all herbs are good choices so pick wisely and do your research.



If you’re going to use milk in your recipes, you have to keep a few things in mind.  Firstly, I don’t recommend milk for beginners.  You need to be extra careful and diligent about sanitation.  Milk lotions are more prone to spoiling.  Only use pasteurized milk.  Don’t use milk products that contain live cultures.  If you want to use yogurt or buttermilk, which are great for skin, check to make sure it doesn’t contain live cultures or heat it up enough to kill the bacteria.

Goat milk is very popular for lotions.  Goat milk lotion will be rich yet light.  Even regular whole cow’s milk would be nice.  Another choice is almond milk.  Keep in mind that milks have a high fat content.  If you replace all the water in a recipe with milk, you may end up with a thicker or greasier lotion than you want.  Feel free to dilute milk with distilled water for a lighter finished product.


Hydrosols are a favorite addiction additive of mine.  Rosewater is probably the most well-known one but there are many including chamomile, calendula, cucumber, lavender, lemon verbena and many, many more.  Besides the fact that they usually smell divine, they also add to your formulation in the same way an essential oil would.  Because they’re often highly concentrated, they can be pricy but you can use them sparingly.  Replace 5-20% of your water with a hydrosol instead of replacing all the water to save money but still reap the benefits.

Silk Amino Acids

Silk amino acids  add a smooth, silky feeling to products.  Most of the time, you only need to use it about 2% concentration to see effects.  They are great for light, summery lotions.

Hope you enjoyed this post.  As usual, if there are any questions, email


Email Question: Facial Moisturizers

I’m so excited about summer’s approach. Not because I like the hot weather because I really don’t.  Over 75 degrees F is too hot for me.  I like summer because my skin and hair LOVE humidity.  I know most people find humidity to be hair enemy #1 but as long as my hair is in its naturally curly state, my hair thrives on the damp air.  But summer mugginess is even better for my skin.  I doubt I will see a pimple for months and I will achieve the dewy finish I’m always after.  I’m so excited.

Additionally, now is the time I like to increase humectants, such as glycerin or raw honey, in my recipes.  Humectants draw moisture to the skin and hair but only if there is moisture in the air.  If there is little moisture in the air, humectants will actually make skin and hair drier.  So I don’t recommend humectants for those of you in a dry climate.  I usually keep them at a minimum in the winter but start upping the amount late spring/early summer when we start getting more rain and wetness here in NYC.

Onto the email question of the day!

Hi Hippie Girl!  I have been reading your blogs and read the one on making lotions and was wondering if that recipe was for body lotion or face lotion?  I am looking for a facial moisturizer recipe for mature skin- do you have one?  Thanks for taking the time to read this email! 

I love this question!  Mature skin certainly needs extra moisture.  As I age, I really do notice how important moisturizing is.  However, I do not make facial moisturizers.  That is one thing you are very unlikely to see a recipe for from me.  The reason I won’t post one is simple: it’s too risky.  Water-based facial moisturizers have too much potential to cause problems with the eyes.  Eyes are obviously really important because we see with them but they are also pretty vulnerable to infection.  Even though all recipes I post will result in a sanitary product (so long as you work under sanitary conditions) they are not sterile so I don’t plan on making a product that is water-based to be used near the eyes.  The chances of someone’s eyes actually becoming infected from a moisturizer are not that high but it’s not really a risk I am willing to take even with a preservative.  Instead, I recommend using an oil blend on the face, especially for older skin.  Since it’s not water-based, microbes are much less likely to grow to dangerous numbers.  I discuss an oil blend that I make and like here.

Hope this helps!  Please direct questions to I always answer even if I don’t post it here.

Skincare Chemistry: All You Need to Know about pH

This post is by reader request.  One of my favorite chemistry topics!  Let’s jump right in.  I won’t bore you with all the details, just some basic chemistry.

pH is simple.  It’s a way of measuring how acidic or alkaline (also known as basic) a substance is.  This is done by measuring how much H+, hydrogen ion, is present in a solution.

When levels of H+ are low, you have a basic or alkaline substance.  When levels of H+ are high, you have an acidic substance.  Pure water is neither acidic nor alkaline; it’s neutral. A pH of 7 is neutral and it’s the midpoint of the scale.  As you get farther from the midpoint, the substance becomes more acidic as the numbers go down and more alkaline (basic) as the numbers go up.

Because of the logarithmic nature of this scale, each change in pH is equivalent to a tenfold change in H+ concentration.  That means that a substance with a pH of 2 is 10 times more acidic than something with a pH of 3, 100 times more acidic than a pH of 4, 1,000 times more acidic than a substance with a pH of 5, and so on.  By the time you reach a pH of 14, the H+ concentration is VERY low, making it extremely basic instead of acidic.  At a pH of 1, the H+ concentration is exceedingly high and so you have something extremely acidic.

That’s all you really need to know for this post.  Here’s a graphic for all my visual learners :)

ph scale 1

So what does this have to do with skincare, right?

“pH balanced”

It’s true that the skin (and hair too) is naturally acidic, usually with a pH between 4 and 6.  The outer layer where the pH of skin is fairly low is often called the “acid mantle.”  When this layer of the skin stays within its proper acidic pH range, it prevents dryness and weaknesses in the skin where bacteria can enter and cause pimples and stuff.  Of course, you should not use products that are highly acidic on your skin since a very low pH is corrosive and can burn the skin.  At the same time, using extremely alkaline products would be dangerous too due to their caustic nature and ability to dissolve skin (doesn’t sound pleasant, does it?).

Most soaps and products that clean are quite basic.  Using an alkaline product would raise the pH of the outer layer of your skin, likely disrupting the acid mantle.  Most people’s skin can bounce back from this relatively quickly.  In some instances, such as very sensitive or acne-prone skin, the skin might need some help. When I was pregnant and my skin was especially oily and sensitive, I was very aware of pH.  I tried to use as few alkaline products as I could, keeping most of my products neutral or acidic.

If you find that your skin is sensitive to pH, here’s what I recommend (of course, I am not a dermatologist!):

  • Use a cleanser that has a pH of about 8.  You can also consider using a cleanser that is closer to neutral.
  • Use an acidic toner after cleansing to help restore the acid mantle as quickly as possible.
  • Use a neutral or slightly acidic moisturizer.

If your skin is already irritated and dry from problems with pH, avoid all acidic products until you’ve healed up.  Only use very slightly alkaline and neutral products since acid will almost certainly sting and cause more damage and dryness.

In the end, the term “pH balanced” is just a marketing ploy to get you to buy stuff.  Cosmetic companies just assume that you don’t know what it means and that you’ll just buy what they’re selling because it’s “pH balanced.” Now that you know what it is, though, you can make your own stuff that meets your needs.

How to determine pH

The only way to know the pH of something is to test it out with an indicator.  Indicators are substances that change color depending on the pH of its environment.  There are many indicators but the most convenient one is pH paper.  Find a bunch on Amazon here.  You dip pH paper, or hydrion paper, into what you want to test and match up the color to find the corresponding approximate pH range.  They’re okay as far as accuracy goes, good enough for what we need.  Beware though — don’t use litmus paper.  Litmus paper only tells you if something is an acid or a base but it does not give a precise pH value.

If you’re very serious about pH and want very accurate and precise measurements, think about purchasing  a pH meter.  Good ones aren’t cheap.

Reasons to determine pH

When I make soap, pH papers are invaluable because using a soap before it’s ready can cause serious skin irritation, itching, and even burns.  Usually, I’ll put a few drops of water onto the soap, make sure a small amount of soap dissolves, then dip the paper into the very small puddle of water on the bar of soap.  When the pH is between 8 and 10, it’s a usable soap.

Some preservatives are rendered ineffective by pH.  The preservative I usually use, Optiphen, is effective between pH 4 and pH 8.  Lotions and creams I make never go beyond this range so I’m safe.  Check the manufacturer of your favorite preservative to see what the effective pH range is.  Be aware that using preservatives outside the recommended pH range can make them less effective or not work at all.

Ways to lower pH

Most of the time, DIYers want to lower the pH of their products to make them more in line with the pH of the acid mantle.  When adding any of the suggestions listed below, be sure to dilute and add small amounts at a time.  It’s better to add too little and just add more if necessary.  Add a little, test it out.

  • add citric acid — citric acid is commonly used for the sole purpose of lowering pH, not my favorite choice but has some preservative qualities which is nice
  • add vitamin C — vitamin C has some great benefits for skin plus it’s pretty cheap so I prefer using this to lower pH of cleansers and toners
  • add AHA, alpha hydroxy acid — also has good benefits for skin, as I’m sure you’ve seen before.  This is a good choice for older skin and for people who do not spend much time in the sun.  This is also the better choice for creams and lotions, in my opinion.

If you need to raise the pH of your product, sodium hydroxide is usually the choice.  Sometimes you will see sodium hydroxide on an ingredient list.  This is off-putting because sodium hydroxide is lye, with an extremely high pH, and is often used as drain cleaner.  However, it’s usually present just to raise pH.

Final thoughts on pH

pH is important but it’s even more important if your skin is sensitive or prone to breakouts.  I don’t monitor pH very closely because most of my products are close to neutral.  The cleanser I make and use religiously is right around 8, the scrub I prefer is between 4 and 5, and my moisturizer/oil blend is basically neutral.  My skin bounces back quickly from small changes to the acid mantle but if I switch to soap, with a pH of 9 or 10, my skin will inevitably break out.  If you find yourself breaking out a lot or having a lot of redness and irritation, consider lowering the pH of the products you use.

I plan on incorporating an acidic toner into my regimen so keep your eyes open for that recipe coming soon.

This post is pinned to my Homemade Skincare board.  Check it out.  There’s some good stuff pinned there and I’ll be pinning more.

Questions?  Comments?  Email  I always answer and sometimes I post Q&A here on the blog.